…the helpful schizophrenia of Facebook…

I can be opinionated, of this there is no doubt. To be fair there are many things (maybe most things) that I don’t care enough about to become dogmatic over, but regarding the issues that I do care about I know that I can quickly move from sharing my opinion to evangelizing everyone within earshot of the “truth” of my position. The older I get, ironically, the less I am like this, or it could simply be that I care more about fewer issues than before; a sure sign of old age.

Despite the mellowing that advancing age has brought to me I am just as likely, still, to knee-jerk at the introduction of a news story or situation. And our society, if it is anything, is adept at delivering news into our everyday lives. I would have happily remained ignorant of Bruce and Caitlyn Jenner, the Duggars, Charlie the pencil demon and a host of other pop-culture stories had it not been for the pervasive saturation of social media. duggar jenner

I have a love / hate relationship with Facebook, and by that I mean that I hate it. For all of the connectedness that social media has the ability to bring it seems that I am perpetually connected to the very things that I don’t want to be connected to. I want to know what my friends are thinking about life, or where they land of issues of truth, or funny things their kids say in the car. Instead my Facebook wall is usually a grocery bag bursting at the seams with rancid political attacks, half-cocked social commentary, bizarre opinion statements devoid of any nuance, odd videos of people with little to no self-control and an inordinate amount of game ads / requests. It’s like a technological purgatory where things that are supposed to be good go to exist forever in a mediocre, unfulfilled limbo. And yet I still find myself, around once each day, thumbing the news feed on my phone with a disgusted look on my face and a burning in my gut.

But that’s not all. As Brennan Manning suggested, maybe all is grace after all.

Perhaps by God’s grace and mercy, my social media feeds are an amazing balance of opposing views. I am glad that I know, or know of, such a diverse group of people. I find that when I’ve read something that stirs my temptation to knee-jerk, if I will but simply scroll down a bit more, I will find that there is a quote, link or article that forces me to see things from the other side of the perspective wheel. The Jenner, Vanity Fair cover is a good example.

I have zero desire to weigh-in on Bruce and Caitlyn Jenner at this point in my life. I am much closer to commenting at length on Vanity Fair’s inability to choose stories that affect and are important to a broad sweep of American society. Regardless of ethics, gender reassignment surgery actually happens, from my best “internet research,” 500 times each year at most in America. That’s 500 people out of the roughly 300 million citizens of this great nation. So, nice job Vanity Fair on choosing the hard-hitting stories that are so close to home for all of us. Good work, bravo. It’s not that Jenner’s story doesn’t matter, it’s more that in the hierarchy of things that matter there is no traction for the argument that this particular story matters most.

But, not to drift from the point, I find that there are many people in social media land who are more than willing to fire up their wild-eyed smokers and cook up a hyper-emotional, poorly thought out opinion on the Jenner story, the Duggar story, Baltimore, or the NSA. In this world there is apparently no legitimate landing strip between “you can never judge anyone at all, you’ll hurt their feelings!” and “judge ’em with a hatchet in one hand and a steak in the other!” But, though I never thought I would say it, “thank you for your service.” You see, it is the illumination of the boundaries of the fringes that gives me the ability to make sure I am staying somewhere in the middle. I may or may not remain in the middle forever, but until an issue or situation has had time to marinate in my mind and soul I have no desire to leap onto one side or the other. And it is the schizophrenic nature of my Facebook feed that I have to thank for helping me realize where the rational center is.
I am almost certain that I am not alone. There are many of us who are daily being helped to realize where thoughtfulness ends and insanity begins. And so we have many fellow social media contributors to thank. Hashtag: blessed.

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